A/N: Based on the warlock quest "Dreadsteed of Xoroth". 'Cause summoning demons is risky business:-)


I swear on Sargeras' burning eyeball, Callista thought, as the felguard hefted her roughly in one steel-gauntleted fist, if I ever see Stormwind again I'll leave thievery to the rogues forever.

She winced as the felguard tightened his already vice-like grip on her upper arm before tossing her with wholly unnecessary force against the far wall of the cell. The air rushed from her lungs with an "oof" on impact, and she slid to the ground rubbing her bruised arm. She looked up just in time to see her captor bare his fangs in a malicious grin before slamming the heavy adamantium cell door shut. The clang echoed through the hewn stone walls of the Xorothian dungeon with a depressing finality.

Callista gave a despairing groan and pressed the heels of her hands into her aching temples. The butt end of a demon's polearm to the head had not improved her constitution one whit. Her eyes strained against the reddish half-light of the cell until she spied the small form of a chubby gnome clad in mage robes. He lay in the middle of the stone-tiled floor where he had been dropped, a vapory green mist drifting about his head, facedown and snoring.

"Tun!" Callista hissed, sliding over to prod the unconscious gnome in the ribs. "Tunregar Weldicircuit!"

Tun made no response except to shift slightly away from her prodding finger and mutter something unintelligible into the floor. Callista sighed and wedged both her hands under the gnome, turning him gently onto his back, still snoring. She had to hand it to the dreadlord, his sleep spell was nothing to scoff at.

"Tun!" she yelled into the gnome's ear. When he failed to so much as twitch, she punched him hard in the shoulder.

Tun yelped and shot up like he'd been kicked in the back. "What!" he demanded. He peered around blearily, groggy from the cursed sleep. "Callista? Did you just hit me?"

"You were asleep, I didn't know how else to break Hel'nurath's enchantment. Are you alright?"

"Hel'nur – oh. Oh no." His eyes focused on the heavily warded door of the cell as reality crashed down on him like a ton of fel iron. "By the Holy Light…"

"We have to get out of here, now. Hel'nurath wants to make an example. A dramatic execution for the benefit of Banehollow's spies…" her voice trailed off uneasily, and she swallowed drily. As a reasonably experienced warlock, she was no stranger to trouble. Those of her profession were not loved in Stormwind City, or anywhere else in Alliance lands, for that matter. But it was one thing to catch grief from the local guards and paladins for trafficking with demons, and quite another thing entirely to fall into the clutches of a very powerful and extremely angry dreadlord who had caught her red-handed attempting to filch a dreadsteed from his stables.

Tun dissected Callista's statement silently for a moment. Hel'nurath, he supposed, was the enraged dreadlord who had materialized in the midst of their summoning and dispatched them both in such impressively short order. Banehollow was, presumably, another dreadlord. And…execution? When Tun finally spoke, his voice was deceptively quiet. "Where…precisely…is here?"

Callista shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. His eyes were the uncanny blue of arcane power. "Xoroth…I think."

"Xoroth…you think," Tun echoed, still in his icily calm tone. "You THINK?" The last word was almost a screech.

Outwardly, Callista was unperturbed, but inwardly she flinched. Tun's eyes were fairly blazing now, the door wards flaring in response to his growing aura of magic. Oh, she had done it this time. "I'm sorry…" she began.

"Sorry! You're SORRY? You drag me into your evil, foul, demon-reeking, WARLOCK plot, and LIE to me about it!" Tun's voice, which was usually a rather pleasant tenor, was strained with rage. "You deliberately deceive me, and then have the arrogance to pretend you're SORRY!"

"I didn't lie to you, Tun," Callista insisted in as soothing a tone as she could manage. She felt a tiny absurd flicker of gratitude towards the dungeon's magic-nullifying wards. Without them, she was half sure, the only way Lord Hel'nurath or anyone else would be removing her from this cell was with a mop and bucket.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN'T LIE!" She would never before have believed a gnome capable of a bellow, but Tun was rapidly proving that view to have been small-minded. "We discussed this ritual for WEEKS, and not once did you mention dreadlords, theft, OR PAINFUL EXECUTION IN A DUNGEON OF THE LEGION! You are the most poisonous, filthy, treacherous, STUPID excuse for a human I've ever made the mistake of calling a friend!"

"Oh, Tun…" Callista trailed off guiltily as Tun turned his back and refused to look at her, breathing heavily from his outburst. While what he had said was technically true, she had not…omitted…to mention certain possibilities out of malice. Rather, she had thought that the odds of the Dreadlord Hel'nurath actually appearing in person to wring their thieving necks were so slim as to be negligible. After all, she had reasoned at the time, she knew plenty of (alright, one or two) warlocks who possessed dreadsteed servants. And, though powerful by mortal standards, not a one of them was even close to competent enough to challenge such a high-ranking demon and end up as anything but a smoking grease spot on the floor of Xoroth.

Really, she thought, picking morosely at the blood-red stone of the cell floor, shouldn't a mighty lieutenant of the Legion have more pressing things to do than pick off insignificant warlocks trying to poach his pet horses? There really was no accounting for demons.

"Tun," Callista started again. "I know you're angry, and I don't blame you. You're right; I was very very stupid, and very very wrong not to tell you everything from the first. But I could not have dreamt, even in my wildest nightmares, that things would turn out like this."

She paused, but Tun made no indication he'd even heard her speak, fuming silently on the opposite side of the cell.

"I know you don't believe me, but I really am sorry." This prompted a cynical snort from the hunched form of Tun's back, which Callista chose to ignore. "In fact, I think it's safe to say I'm sorrier now than I have ever been in my entire life. But this is still not nearly as sorry as we both will be if we don't get out of this cell right now, before that demon comes back."

"Oh really?" Tun said, more acidly than she had ever heard him speak. "And how, precisely, do you expect us to do that?"

Callista didn't answer, instead rising and moving over to tap experimentally at the thick, rune-scored black metal of the door. It was more saturated with demonic magic than any artifact she'd ever come across, and she pressed a palm against it, probing its energies with her own magic.

The door was not impressed.

"OUCH!" Callista yelped, waving her singed hand in the air to cool it.

Tun twisted his head over his shoulder to harrumph scornfully at her. "That's what I thought."

"Well, I don't see you trying anything useful," she snapped. "Do you want to die in this Light-forsaken hell pit?"

The gnome whipped around to face her and rose to his feet, eyes burning. "Do I really have a CHOICE? What do you expect from me! I'm not one of you thrice-damned warlocks; all I know of demonic magic is that it's best left alone! Which is evidently more than YOU know, or we –"

Tun was halted mid-tirade as the cell began to tremble and shudder violently, with a deep rumble that he felt in his bones rather than heard. Just as he was on the verge of panic, the vibration stopped as abruptly as it had begun.

"Unholy Twisting Nether!" Callista swore from where she had stumbled against one of the walls. "What was that?"

"I don't know, and I don't care!" Tun snarled, his fear of a moment ago converting almost instantly into more anger. "Whatever it is, it can't POSSIBLY be worse than – "

And that was when the world fell in.